Indy Racing League Notebook IndyCar Series heads to California; Texas adds drivers for Heroes race INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2003 -- Leading up to the Toyota Indy 400 Sept. 21 at California Speedway, IndyCarTM Series drivers are taking...
Indy Racing League Notebook
IndyCar Series heads to California; Texas adds drivers for Heroes race
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2003 -- Leading up to the Toyota Indy 400 Sept. 21 at California Speedway, IndyCarTM Series drivers are taking part in a variety of activities in the Los Angeles area.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon, from Auckland New Zealand, and Tomas Scheckter, from Cape Town, South Africa, threw out the first pitch Sept. 17 at the Anaheim Angles/Oakland A's baseball game at Edison Field in Anaheim, Calif.
"It was cool," Dixon said. "They don't play baseball back in New Zealand, just cricket, so I was worried that I might bounce it up there. I heard that the crowd might boo you if you throw a bad pitch, so I concentrated on throwing it fast, and it worked. I have to admit, I did practice a little bit before I went out there."
Scheckter also enjoyed the experience.
"That was awesome," Scheckter said. "My pitch was a little high and outside, but it had some heat on it. It's great that we get to do things like this away from the track. It was a lot of fun."
On Sept. 18, Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran will throw out the first pitch at the Los Angeles Dodgers/Arizona Diamondbacks game at Dodger Stadium in L.A.
Also at the Dodger game, rookie Roger Yasukawa, driver of the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, will meet with Dodger pitcher and 1995 Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Hideo Nomo. Nomo is from Osaka, Japan, while Yasukawa, who was born in L.A., lived in Japan while growing up. Three celebrities are expected to ride in the IndyCar Series two-seater on Sept. 18 at California Speedway.
Celebrities expected to participate in the ride on the 2-mile oval include: Actress Melissa Joan Heart (Sabrina the Teenage Witch); Actor Peter Weller (Robocop); Lisa Dergan (Best Damn Sports Show Period).
Dergen covered the 2002 Indianapolis 500 for FOX Sports.
"VH1 Countdown," a one-hour TV show focusing on the top music videos of the week, will be filmed at the track on Sept. 18 and 19 and feature several IndyCar Series drivers including Sam Hornish Jr, Alex Barron and Robbie Buhl.
Firestone Heroes of Indy Roster Grows: The Firestone Heroes of Indy driver line-up gained four drivers and a pace car driver for the historic race set for Oct. 12 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will feature 10 of the greatest drivers in the history of the Indianapolis 500 in a 25-lap showdown driving identically-prepared Thunder Roadsters on a quarter-mile paved oval prior to the IRL IndyCar Series season-ending Chevy 500.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Gordon Johncock, 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones, 1985 Indy 500 pole-sitter Pancho Carter and 1968 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Billy Vukovich II will compete in the event, while four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser will drive the pace car for the event.
The drivers join three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford and "500" veterans Lloyd Ruby and Jim McElreath in the event. A.J. Foyt will serve as Grand Marshal. All four drivers are from Texas.
"We continue to confirm some of the biggest names in Indy history to be part of this event," said Eddie Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway general manager. "All the drivers are enthusiastic about taking part, and I know the fans will love seeing these legends all together in one place."
The remaining drivers will be announced in the near future.
The Thunder Roadsters are produced by 600 Racing and resemble the roadsters that dominated the Indianapolis 500 and Indy-style racing through the 1950s and 1960s. The cars are powered by a 1250cc Yamaha engine and will be sporting special Firestone Firehawk tires for the event.
The Firestone Heroes of Indy race will include a full weekend of activities celebrating the accomplishments of drivers who established much of the history of the Indianapolis 500. In addition to practice and qualifying for the race, the participants will participate in autograph sessions open to the public and a special Heroes reception featuring "Mom" Unser's fabled chili, a longtime tradition with participants at the Indianapolis 500.
The season-ending Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway is Oct. 12 and will be broadcast live at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. For tickets, log on to www.texasmotorspeedway, call (817) 215-8500 or go to any Ticketmaster location.
Hearn to driver for Hemelgarn: Hemelgarn Racing officials announced Sept. 18 that Richie Hearn will drive the No. 91 Metabolife/Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone for the Toyota Indy 400 Sept. 21 at California Speedway.
Hearn replaces Buddy Lazier, who won the 1996 Indianapolis 500, the 2000 IndyCar Series Championship and eight races with the team. Lazier had been with Hemelgarn since the first IndyCar Series race in 1996 and had missed only two of the 85 races in series history.
Wood returns to Canada: Infiniti Pro Series driver Tom Wood returned home Sept. 17 to Calgary, Alberta, Canada after stays at Methodist Hospital and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, both located in Indianapolis, said Dr. Kevin Scheid, an orthopedic surgeon from OrthoIndy.
Wood underwent multiple surgeries and rehabilitation in Indianapolis after suffering fractures to his middle back, right knee, right foot and both ankles in an accident on Lap 52 of the Kentucky 100 Infiniti Pro Series event on Aug. 16 at Kentucky Speedway.
De Ferran to use Panoz G Force at California: Gil de Ferran will use a Panoz G Force for the Toyota Indy 400, Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing Inc., said Sept. 17. His teammate, Helio Castroneves, will use a Dallara chassis, as he has in all races this season.
After competing in the first two races of the season with the Dallara chassis, de Ferran won the 87th Indianapolis 500 on May 25 using a Panoz G Force chassis and finished eighth in June at Texas using the chassis. He switched back to the Dallara for the last nine races.
"Obviously, Gil had success with the (Panoz) G Force at Indianapolis, and we think it might give him a bit of an edge at the bigger tracks," Cindric said. "We had a good test with it last week in Fontana, so we decided to give it a shot."
The team first used a Panoz G Force during the third race of the season in April at Twin Ring Motegi when Alex Barron finished 17th after an accident. Barron substituted for de Ferran after de Ferran suffered a back injury in March in an accident with Michael Andretti at Phoenix.
Nice Honor: The Dreyer & Reinbold Racing cars of Robbie Buhl and Sarah Fisher will each carry decals during the Toyota Indy 400 honoring the late Governor of Indiana, Frank O'Bannon.
O'Bannon died Sept. 13 in a Chicago hospital after he suffered a stroke five days earlier.
The team, which is based in Indianapolis, played host to the governor in May in their garage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500. In August, Buhl and Fisher were asked by O'Bannon to give pace car rides at the Speedway during the National Governor's Association annual summer meeting, which was held in Indianapolis for the first time since 1931.
Hot Laps: Taylor Fletcher will drive the No. 9 Olive Crest Foundation SSM Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the final two Infiniti Pro Series races of the season--Brad Pollard, cousin of the late Indianapolis 500 veteran Art Pollard, will drive the No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Mtrspts. Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone in the Infiniti Pro Series California 100.